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Space to Experiment

One thing that years of research on innovative organisations has proved is that really innovative organisations have room to experiment. It is like the Samuel Beckett comment: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

One of the unfortunate outcomes, of so many Irish social enterprises being dependent on government funding, is that it tends to lead to little or no experimentation. We discussed this during the social enterprise development class in the Ryan Academy on Friday morning. The participants in the class are all involved in social enterprises, from board level to senior managers to those embarking on creating new social enterprises. The consensus was that the rules under which funding is given means that very few have any funding spare to experiment with new ideas.

If we are to really invoke the spirit of innovation, which the country needs so badly now, we need to allow our social enterprises to try and fail. There is a cultural issue about failure in Ireland and a form of civil service mentality that says it is better to keep the head down and not try new things. Perhaps this mentality is one of the reasons the country seems to be in the deep mental funk that it is at present.

We need our social enterprises to experiment, to try new things and yes, to be allowed to fail. I have been on non-profit boards that have tried new things and those that haven’t. I can tell you the ones that tried new things, or had the space to try new things, were the more innovative organisations and it showed in their delivery on the ground.

Again this leads back to Your Country Your Call, which is really a grand social experiment. It was discussed at early meetings during it’s development – what happens if no one applies? What happens if there is no clear winner? What happens if there are too many applications? And so on…..but all of these fears were overcome and the experiment has begun.  So far there are over 700 ideas listed and still 67 days to go. Go on Ireland, experiment.

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